The narrow windows in the belt gallery had no glass, and the rain came driving through them into the shadows, each drop catching the white shine of the electric lights outside. The floor was trampled with mud and littered with scraps of lumber, tool boxes, empty nail kegs, and shavings. The long, gloomy gallery was empty when Bannon and Hilda stepped into it, excepting a group of men at the farther end, installing the rollers for the belt conveyor—they could be seen indistinctly against a light in the river house.
The wind came roaring around the building, and the gallery trembled and shook. Hilda caught her breath and stopped short.
“It’s all right,” said Bannon. “She’s bound to move some.”
“I know—” she laughed—“I wasn’t expecting it—it startled me a little.”
“Watch where you step.” He took her arm and guided her slowly between the heaps of rubbish.
At one of the windows she paused, and stood full in the rain, looking out at the C. & S. C. tracks, with their twinkling red and green lights, all blurred and seeming far off in the storm.
“Isn’t this pretty wet?” he said, standing beside her.
“I don’t care.” She shook the folds of the rubber coat, and glanced down at it. “I like it.”
They looked out for a long time. Two millwrights came through the gallery, and glanced at them, but they did not turn. She stepped forward and let the rain beat on her face—he stood behind, looking at her. A light showed far down the track, and they heard a faint whistle. “A train,” he said; and she nodded. The headlight grew, and the car lights appeared behind it, and then the black outline of the engine. There was a rush and a roar, and it passed under them.
“Doesn’t it make you want to jump down?” she said softly, when the roar had dwindled away.
He nodded with a half-smile. “Say,” he said, a little later, “I don’t know about your writing—I don’t believe we’d better—” he got the words out more rapidly—“I’ll tell you what you do—you come along with me and we won’t have to write.”
“Up to the St. Lawrence. We can start on the third just the same.”
She did not answer, and he stopped. Then, after a moment, she slowly turned, and looked at him.
“Why—” she said—“I don’t think I—”
“I’ve just been thinking about it. I guess I can’t do anything else—I mean I don’t want to go anywhere alone. I guess that’s pretty plain, isn’t it—what I mean?”
She leaned back against the wall and looked at him; it was as if she could not take her eyes from his face.
“Perhaps I oughtn’t to expect you to say anything now,” he went on. “I just thought if you felt anything like I did, you’d know pretty well, by this time, whether it was yes or no.”
She was still looking at him. He had said it all, and now he waited, his fists knotted tightly, and a peculiar expression on his face, almost as if he were smiling, but it came from a part of his nature that had never before got to the surface. Finally she said:—